Pope supports pro-life movement, sets day of prayer for peace in Africa

IMAGE: CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — With so many direct attacks on human
life, from abortion to war, Pope Francis said he is worried that so few people
are involved in pro-life activities.

Reciting the Angelus prayer at the Vatican Feb. 4, Pope
Francis marked Italy’s Pro-Life Sunday and also called for a day of prayer and
fasting for peace Feb. 23,
with special prayers for Congo and South Sudan.

Some 20,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the
Angelus. Many of them carried the pro-life movement’s green balloons with the
message, “Yes to life.”

Thanking all the “different church realities that
promote and support life in many ways,” Pope Francis said he was surprised
there were not more people involved.

“This worries me,” the pope said. “There
aren’t many who fight on behalf of life in a world where, every day, more weapons
are made; where, every day, more laws against life are passed; where, every day,
this throwaway culture expands, throwing away what isn’t useful, what is
bothersome” to too many people.

Pope Francis asked for prayers that more people would become
aware of the need to defend human life “in this moment of destruction and
of throwing away humanity.”

With conflict continuing in many parts of the world, the
pope said it was time for a special day of prayer and fasting for peace and
that it was appropriate for the observance to take place Feb. 23, a Friday in

“Let us offer it particularly for the populations of
the Democratic Republic of Congo and of South Sudan,” he said.

Fighting between government troops and rebel forces and
between militias continue in Congo, especially in the East, but tensions also
have erupted as protests grow against President Joseph Kabila, whose term of
office ended in 2016. New elections have yet to be scheduled.

South Sudan became independent from Sudan in 2011 after
decades of war. But, just two years after independence, political tensions
erupted into violence.

Pope Francis asked “our non-Catholic and non-Christian
brothers and sisters to join this initiative in the way they believe is most

And he prayed that “our heavenly Father would always
listen to his children who cry to him in pain and anguish.”

But individuals also must hear those cries, he said, and ask
themselves, “‘What can I do for peace?’ Certainly we can pray, but not
only. Each person can say ‘no’ to violence” in their daily lives and
interactions. “Victories obtained with violence are false victories, while
working for peace is good for everyone.”

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